Facilitating Literacy in the 21st Century: Word Clouds

By Readingintheborderlands

This is the second post in a series about technological tools that can be used in literacy classrooms.

Many educators will be familiar with traditional response strategies such as the graffiti board, written reflections, sketch to stretch, and save the last word for me.  These engagements support children as they think about literature, deepen initial responses and prepare for literature discussions.

Wordle: Wordle
Several years ago I began experimenting with Wordle. This free website lets you to create word clouds out of any text you enter. Words that are repeated in the text appear in larger font in the wordle; the more repetitions, the larger the font. Once your wordle is created, you can choose different layouts and color schemes. You can also edit the cloud by removing certain words.

How can this be used in literacy classrooms? Here are a few ideas. Add your own in the comments!

  • Type in text (or cut and paste from a digital source) from the book the class is reading. The wordle that you create usually highlights major themes of the book.
  • Enter news articles about the same topic taken from different sources. How does the wordle change? What does that show about how each source approached the topic?
  • Ask children to enter a response in answer to some question about the book. The wordle created from their responses will spark discussion about the question.  Questions can range from “List the five traits you most admire about the main character” to “Write about a personal connection you made to the story.”
  • When students are revising their writing have them create a wordle out of their work. This is fun…but it also helps students see their writing in new ways. Sometimes students see that what they thought they were writing about is not actually what they wrote!

 This tool is also great for social studies classrooms: enter the Declaration of Independence and see what the wordle shows. Or compare the inaugural addresses from different presidents.

 Another word cloud tool is Tagul. This is very similar to Wordle, but also allows you to create the word cloud in whatever shape you choose.

 A related series of blog posts can be found at WOW Currents throughout the month of November.

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